Quite some time ago, back on my former blog, I wrote a piece about my uncle, Norman Lidster. I stated at that time that an ambition of mine was to complete a revision of his autobiography, No Time for Why – written (and self-published) back in the 1960s.
While it is a fascinating tale of a remarkably courageous man, and certainly a prominent icon in my life, it needs a lot of revision and heavy-duty editing. It also needs much more of a narrative than it possesses in its current state.
As such things happen, my ambition (after a reasonable start on the project) was trumped by other things in life and, while I had never forgotten the quest, I’d let it slide. You know how these things happen.
But, enter a bit of serendipity the other day. The serendipity revolved around the lovely, redheaded stranger. As I stated in the blog, at the reception following Norman’s funeral in 1977, a woman approached me from across the room. She was striking and charming. She asked me if I was Norman’s brother because the family resemblance was there. I asked her if she’d like to run away with me. No, I didn’t, but she was quite attractive. I told her that I was Norman’s nephew. We chatted for a time and she moved on to other people who were gathered.
Later I wondered, quite vainly, who she was. I asked my father and a couple of Norman’s sisters, but they hadn’t a clue. Just one of those mysteries in life that one has to accept, I assumed.
And now for the serendipity. Yesterday I received an email from a lady in Salisbury, England, named Sacha Hayward. She explained that she had read the aforementioned blog and that her aunt, who had just died at age 88, was a favorite nurse that Norman mentions in his book. She also mentioned that her other aunt – a redhead – had also spent some time with Norman in Victoria, BC, where he spent much of his life in a chronic care facility.
I was quite astounded, and also delighted to hear from her. She asked, of course, if I was still proceeding with the rewrite of the book. All I can say to that is, Sacha, thank you for goading me in this regard and providing some inspiration to get back to the task. She also said that if she were able to come across any further information, via old letters and so forth, she would gladly share them with me. To that I can only say, and I’ve told her this, I would be delighted.
As follows is an excerpt about Norman from that original blog:
I was in my mid-30s when Norman died in 1977. He died in his late 50s, which is not an advanced age in contemporary longevity, but it was a very long haul for a man as afflicted as he was.
Norman was the ‘rigid man.’ Smashed to a physical shell by a ghastly course of rheumatoid arthritis that began in his late teens, and which progressed with agonizing brutality for years he was, by his late 20s, utterly immobile (except for limited movement in his jaw and a couple of fingers) and, with insult troweled onto injury, completely blind. He was a fine brain, and I’ll suggest a soul — a very large soul — trapped inside a useless vessel.
He was also one of the most astonishing men I’ve ever known. An opinion that is shared with vast numbers of people who came to know Norman over the years. Periodically, in later life, when I was going through some personal difficulties (difficulties that were tiny in comparison with his), I thought of Norman, and speculated that it would be good to talk with him at that moment, to get a kind of reality-check, a metaphorical kick-in-the-ass from him. He was good at that, and he never did it from a “poor me” perspective. While he was a very bright student in school, he was also a rebel and was actually expelled at one point for refusing to accede to a regulation he thought was draconian bullshit. Man, I like that about him.
Ultimately, Norman triumphed in his own way over this clinical cruelty, and it was likely his basic rebelliousness, and even waywardness that enabled, at least in part, that to happen. To ultimately be able to spit in the eye of the nefarious spirits that would drag him down, was triumph indeed. It was true courage. It was a victory of the human spirit. While he ultimately had great faith in God, he was also quite capable of saying “screw you” to his illness, and not let it drag him down into the pits of despair. He was candid in saying that for years he’d questioned God and was stuck in a “why me?” mode. Ultimately he realized he’d never progress if he got stuck in that place. Hence the title: ‘No Time for Why.’ Life was there to be lived and, all things considered, he did a mighty fine job of it.